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"He just can't speak human"

Andrew Neil | 10:08 UK time, Tuesday, 23 September 2008

As I write, Gordon Brown is still putting the finishing words to what's been billed as "the speech of his life", though I sense it will turn out to be less than that.

Last night and into the wee small hours, it was still being drafted by a team of aides. A steady flow of folk went in and out of his conference suite to add their tuppenceworth.

Gordon Brown and David Miliband"There are so many people involved," one observer told me, "you could go up and add a couple of lines too. Nobody would notice." I declined the offer.

This sort of "gang-bang" approach to speech-writing often produces a turkey. We shall know in a few hours.

Brown has been known during speech-writing sessions in the end to tear up the drafts, access one of his template speeches in his hard drive and work on adapting it himself. I suspect he might have ended up doing that last night.

We're told that the PM will be both defiant and personal, which is a tricky double act to pull off, especially as (in the words of one minister) "he just can't speak human".

I doubt there will be anything new in the speech, bar the proposal to subsidise internet links for poor homes (which, at a measly £300m, is indicative of a government that has run out of money for grand gestures).

Many of the lines - "I'm the best qualified to deal with the financial turmoil" - we'll have heard before.

The audience, of course, will give him a warm response. But I remain doubtful the speech will resolve anything - and people privately might quickly feel a little disappointed.

We'll have live and uninterrupted coverage of the speech this afternoon on The Daily Politics on BBC Two. We begin the "pre-match build up" at noon for an hour, then return at 1.30pm for the run-up to the speech itself.

I'll be joined by a galaxy of politicians and journalists for analysis, comment and debate, including cabinet minsters Hazel Blears and Ed Miliband and former London mayor Ken Livingstone.

We'll have advice for Mr Brown on just how to make his speech from Hollywood star Brian Cox, who's perhaps best known for his parts in the Jason Bourne films. Maybe there are lessons from Jason Bourne's way of doing things for the PM?

We'll also have former Tory Leader Ian Duncan Smith on hand - he knows a thing or two about delivering the all-important party leader address - and we'll chat with Roy Hattersley, a former deputy leader of the party and veteran of Labour conferences.

pete_waterman203.jpgAnd we hear from a Labour supporter - pop svengali Pete Waterman - and get his take on the PM's year. Blog readers can get a sneak peek here.

And as if all that isn't enough, we'll also have BBC political editor Nick Robinson on hand with the latest news and analysis.

If you have views on how Mr Brown should approach his speech and what you want to hear from him, please do leave a comment below.

And of course, you can catch up on all things conference at our Conference Highlights superpage.


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